Colorado Pro-Choice Group Celebrates 50th Anniversary

05/02/2017 04:41 pm ET Updated May 03, 2017

Over 700 people celebrated NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s 50th birthday Saturday night at a downtown Denver gala keynoted by Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider from Alabama and Mississippi, whose work was nationally spotlighted in the documentary film Trapped.

Parker, who's known as a Christian reproductive choice advocate, drew loud applause when he explained that he woke up after the election and his “Christian mind” thought about a quote from Job, “That which I have feared greatly feared has come upon me.”

And then Parker’s music-loving side remembered the opening line from an Amy Winehouse song: “What kind of fuckery is this?”

He urged the audience to not to be offended by his language but by the threats to abortion rights and other Trump proposals.

“Let us not turn this country over to Donald Trump and his followers,” said Parker, returning multiple times to his theme that Trump has presented “progressive people-in-action with the biggest opportunity to create a movement” in their lifetimes.

On the sidewalk outside the hotel, Leslie Hanks, a long-time Denver anti-choice activist, stood in the blowing snow with two others and placards, one stating, "Willie Parker Murders Boys and Girls."

“He calls himself a Christian,” said Hanks, “but he’s killing the image bearers of Jesus Christ. How can he be a Christian? On judgement day, if he doesn’t repent, he’ll be facing all the baby boys and girls he’s murdered. And of course, I hope he repents.”

During his speech inside, Parker inadvertently responded to Hanks’ statement.

“Some people think I do this work in spite of my Christian identity, but I do this because of my Christian identity,” he said, drawing the longest applause of the evening. “I felt called to compassionate action, rather than stigma and shame.”

Parker is the author of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. 

Asked by the Colorado Times Recorder why he's making the moral argument for choice, not for abortion, Parker said, "We should restore the notion choice is a verb and not a noun."

"Sometimes, people sum up what choice is by saying, 'I'm pro-choice,'" said Parker. "That's what you call yourself, but what does that mean? Are you actualizing access to medical and sex education and contraception? What results in a women needing an abortion?  Certainly a part of choice is to de-stigmatize the one aspect of choice that people obsess about, and that's abortion. Our real challenge is to go from choice in name to choice in action. And that means thinking more broadly about what goes into providing reproductive choice for people. Then what we do will be more important than what we call ourselves."

Prior to Parker’s keynote, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, addressed the crowd.

“We are so proud of all that you do every day in the face of extreme opposition and sometimes violence," thundered Hickenlooper at the sold-out event. "I could not be more proud to be here for the 50th anniversary. This is an organization that is actually saving lives and improving the world. Hallelujah!”

Former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, also a Democrat, and former Republican State Sen. John Bermingham, who was a Republican at the time, recounted how they joined with others to push Colorado’s abortion-legalization law, the first in the country, through Colorado’s Republican-controlled state legislature 50 years ago. It was signed by former Republican Gov. John Love.

Hailing those days when the debate about abortion didn't divide as predictably along party lines, Lamm said "partisan politics" should have nothing to do with a women's decision about an "unwanted pregnancy."

Parker was introduced by Dr. Warren Hern, a Boulder OBGYN who’s one of four providers of late-term abortion in the U.S.

He thanked NARAL, as well Birmingham, Hickenlooper, Lamm and the other politicians in the room, for creating laws that allow doctors like him to give women the care they need.

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